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Police training Guard
Local guard members learn how to clear a village, and fast

 Sgt. Dann Villaneuva practices urban assault techniques with his squad of soldiers from a National Guard unit based in Fredericksburg.
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Date published: 6/21/2006

By MELISSA NIX

By MELISSA NIX

BLACKSTONE--Forget tank on tank combat or jungle warfare. Today's military men and women are fighting in the cities and villages of Iraq and Afghanistan.

Beside roadside bombs, soldiers must confront roof-top snipers, break down doors and dislodge bad guys from civilian living rooms.

The military is playing catch-up, trying to prep more of its soldiers for such circumstances before they meet them.

On Monday, 35 of Fredericksburg's Army National Guard members received urban assault training from eight members of Fairfax County's SWAT team. The police officers drilled members of Alpha Company, 116th Brigade Special Troops Battalion--formerly the 229th Engineer Battalion--in techniques they use in urban (and suburban) scenarios.

It's the latest example of how the war in Iraq is touching the lives of those in Virginia--military and civilian alike.

Alpha Company's leader, Lt. John Hicks, said most of his men were relatively inexperienced in urban warfare, except for "the 25 percent" who have already been overseas. The SWAT team members were teaching his soldiers to breach doors, clear rooms and secure buildings, he said.

"If there's a hostile environment [these days], it will be in an urban environment," Hicks said.

The group trained at Fort Pickett's MOUT, or Military Operation Urban Terrain section. It's a cluster of white concrete buildings built to simulate a neighborhood in Baghdad or Kabul. A manufactured ghost town.

Inside, the SWAT team's Pfc. Lance Guckenberger demonstrated a "hide kit" in an empty room. Fifteen soldiers packed into the tiny space. Two others leaned through an open window to listen.

"Push pins, duck tape and material is all you need," he said.

Guckenberger diagonally slung a mosquito net across the open window and tacked black material to the back walls, effectively darkening the room. He showed the men how to hang that net while minimizing exposure to a potential sniper.

"Say they're on a convoy that hits an IED or rocket. People are injured and while they are waiting for backup, they take a position in a building. With a "hide kit" they can conceal themselves and harden their target," he later explained.


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